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Showing posts from October, 2009

Urotsukidoji I: Legend of the Overfiend

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Title: Urotsukidoji I: Legend of the Overfiend
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Animation, Horror, Action, Fantasy
Director: Hideki Takayama
Language: Japanese

Yes, with a title like this it could only be another Japanese anime, this time taking things to more expected situations. Except this isn’t the cliché, this is the creator of the cliché; possibly the first to truly popularise the notion of tentacle rape, and the only animated film I have ever heard of getting multiple outright bans including in the US, Australia and the UK, requiring the removal of nearly half an hour of footage to be legally sold. Can you imagine just how sick and twisted it would need to be to get that rating? And so naturally, I was intrigued as to how they managed this feat, and sought the original.

The first tentacle rape scene emerges within ten minutes (yes, there are more than one, and it doesn’t always involve tentacles), and before I should continue with the review, I should explain that this 1989 classic has been…

Haibane Renmei

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Title: Haibane Renmei
Rating: 2/5
Genre: Drama, Animation,
Language: Japanese
Duration: 25mins (13 episodes)

I’ve yet to see this given anything other than top (or at least very close to top) marks; a challenge I offer to anyone reading this to disprove. This would lead you to believe that this is incredibly good, and enjoyable for everyone. Well, say hello to my negative review because, I don’t get it. Everything is beautifully performed, lending a beautifully rooted simplicity, and in many regards you could call the story ‘perfect.’ Too perfect in fact. There’s no strife (one of the most ‘rebellious’ actions witnessed in the first third of the season is a woman who refuses to eat her carrots. Oh how I wish I was kidding), no arguments, and whilst there are little mysteries to be solved, all that it ever gives you is an open-ended question; it tries to promote independent thought but then fails to explore the subject in any kind of detail, instead choosing to shroud it convenient co…

Im a Cyborg, But That’s OK

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Title: Im a Cyborg, But That’s OK
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Romantic, Drama, Comedy
Starring: Su-jeong Lim (A Tale of Two Sisters), Rain
Director: Chan-Wook Park
Language: Korean

“Alright, I admit it. Yesterday…I stole Thursday”

One of the things that I always appreciated about this director’s style was his off-beat comedic style, so naturally when I learnt of this films existence it was inevitable that I would eventually watch it. Slotting somewhere between ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and ‘Amelie,’ it’s a quirky and utterly insane, but also warm, fuzzy and light-hearted, allowing yourself to simply ‘let go’ of looking for plot coherency in exchange for the charming shared delusions of minds that seem made for one another.

Harbouring her secret, it was at the radio assembly factory that Cha Young-Goon (Lim) worked for that she felt fatigued, carefully cutting a slit in her wrist so as to hardwire herself into the mains and recharge. As you may expect, this quickly landed her in a mental hosp…

Perfect Blue

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Title: Perfect Blue
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Drama, Animation, Thriller
Director: Satoshi Kon
Language: Japanese

It was this film that I would later discover partly influenced Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream,” and it’s not difficult to see why. From the same man who would later go on to write ‘Paranoia Agent,’ whilst it never reaches the peaks of humour or insanity the manner it progresses is incredibly well thought out. Depicting a slow descent that would do Hitchcock (Psycho) proud, it may not be perfect but manages to hold up to the scrutiny of multiple viewings, with subtle intricacies lending new light upon each viewing.

Following the story of the pop idol Mima, a member of up and coming band ‘Cham,’ who leaves in order to persue a career in acting. Climbing a rocky road to success, she does everything in her power to prove herself as an actress, even resorting to degrading herself in risqué scenes against the advice of her agent, Rumi. Acquiring a stalker whom seems to know too much abou…

Paranoia Agent

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Title: Paranoia Agent
Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Animation, Crime, Mystery, Comedy, Drama
Language: Japanese
Director: Satoshi Kon
Duration: 25mins (13 Episodes)

With David Lynch, you’ll never understand what he’s trying to say. With Miike’s ‘Gozu,’ there’s absolutely no sense to any of it until you come to realise the missing piece of the puzzle. However, with Satoshi Kon’s ‘Paranoia Agent,’ you think that ‘missing piece’ is obvious, until you realise that it’s really, really not. This is that third category of ‘mindfuck’ story, the one that you don’t realise is playing tricks on you, that you think is a somewhat normal (or at least what constitutes for ‘normal’ in Japan) plot but as the rabbit hole deepens, trying to make logical sense of it all becomes an almost futile task.

I perhaps could be to blame for not picking up on this fact sooner; the opening sequence of half the characters all laughing at you a clear indication that this isn’t going to be your run-of-the-mill animé, and with each ep…

Shingetsutan Tsukihime

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Title: Shingetsutan Tsukihime (Tsukihime, Lunar Legend – English Title)
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Animation
Language: Japanese
Duration: 25mins (12 episodes)

And so I finish the story, head still reeling somewhat from the in depth plot and I wonder just where to begin. This mini-series has some very heavy gothic undertones, and is not for those who aren’t looking for dark imagery, yet whilst many aspects could feel either cliché or overbearing the plot has been intricately worked out and calculated. Every scene has a point – even if it’ll take the entire series to figure it out – the twists come frequently, and humour subtly worked in through the school friends. Whilst originally based on a Video Game (apparently), the story unfurls in a manner that doesn’t feel constrained by another format like so many other conversions.

The plot for the most part follows the story of Shiki; a student who lost his memory in a car accident eight years ago, waking up to find he could see mysterio…

The Wrestler

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Title: The Wrestler
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Drama
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei
Director: Darren Aronofsky

I have been a fan of Aronofsky since ‘Requiem for a Dream,’ even enjoying his more questionable works, and so I come to the last of his full length films I have yet to see, as well as being his most recently released work, and I entered with high expectations. Expectations, that sadly, were not met. This train-wreck of a film feels as disjointed as the emotions of the main character that we follow, and whilst the result isn’t dire, anyone familiar with his past repertoire may find is departure to more mainstream ideals more than a little disappointing.

The story follows pro-wrestler Randy ‘the Ram’ Robinson (Rourke), the height of his career 20 years ago, he is still struggling to make a living doing what he loves. After a particularly violent match, he collapses, returning to consciousness only to discover he had a heart attack, and as a result could no longer w…

Humanities End

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Title: Humanities End
Rating: 1/5
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action
Starring: Jay Laisne, Cynthia Ickes, Rochelle Vallese
Director: Neil Johnson

So I managed to keep my eyes open for this one, thus removing it from that bottom category, but they should consider this an act of kindness on my part. One of the first things that struck me was the gratuitous use of CGI; often in low-budget affairs they try to limit the effects, but here they’ve gone for gusto and used in by the bucketload, and whilst it clearly looks dated, was fairly well utilised. In fact, it was probably the best thing about this film, and that’s not a good thing.

The plot follows a captain whose name we never learn. Or I didn’t remember. Anyway, he goes fishing on some desert planet (wrap your mind around that one) for seven years because he’s hiding from the woman he desperately loves who dumped him. He receives a transmission from her saying she needs help, but only one of the ships she was towing survives. A half dead old guy and a r…

Fish Tank

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Title: Fish Tank
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Drama
Starring: Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender
Director: Andrea Arnold

I’d like to think I keep on top of all the indie films that are being released, but in truth I know that I’m not. Despite this fact, this was one film that I had to bump on my list. From the get go we see how important realism is to the film; it doesn’t force feed you the same tired lines of how difficult a life a single mother has, or of life growing up in a London estate and how testing it could be. These aspects are all present, but it’s the backdrop to the story, rather than the story itself. Likewise, in an almost documentary style of film, it isn’t concerned with defining a beginning middle and end; it has a grand purpose behind the meandering scenes, gently allowing you to learn more about the characters so that you can draw conclusions upon them, but will ultimately let you come to your own definition of what that might be.

The film focuses on Mia, an ‘unknown’ that wasn’t …

Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino

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Title: Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Drama, Animation, Action
Duration: 25mins (13 episodes + 2 OAV)
Language: Japanese

Two years on, the series that looked to have no sequel was handed to a new studio to continue, with an entirely new crew of artists and a new writer underhand to pick up the story where things left off, the result shows a definite change under the new management. As nice as it is to get back to the familiar characters, there is a pivotal change; that overwhelming sadness, the crushing as you saw things from their point of view and how oblivious their handlers were to it, this element has disappeared entirely. Everything seems so much lighter in tone, and coupled with the decision to make it more of a plot driven affair, if not for the characters it wouldn’t be fitting to call it a sequel at all. Now, it could almost be likened to the story in the video game ‘hitman,’ where each episode presents a new assassination to complete, with a larger overarching…

Gunslinger Girl

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Title: Gunslinger Girl
Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Drama, Animation
Duration: 25mins (13 episodes)
Language: Japanese

Take that name, and then think of all the connotations and suggestions that come to mind from such a title, and then throw it away. The reality is so far from what the title might lead you to expect, it’s no wonder that it got overlooked. If you go into this looking for action, you will be sorely disappointed as its for the most part a throwaway part of the story, present only to instil upon you what is being asked of the young girls that the story focuses on. This isn’t just about some secret organisation that goes around with young child assassins; this is about their humanity as they struggle to keep control of their emotions, and their relationship to those who care from them. This is an unbelievably dark and depressing drama, forcing you to watch what could almost be considered a form of child abuse from their apathetic handlers.

The story largely centres on Henrietta, after a…

Versus

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Title: Versus
Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Action, Horror, Comedy
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Starring: Taka Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki, Kenji Matsuda
Language: Japanese

“Take a healthy dose of the living dead, one forest, a gateway to another dimension, a boy, a girl, a bad guy, a dash of destiny, swordplay, gunplay, 17 gallons of fake blood, some horse steroids and then shake violently. The resulting assault on the senses would be a lot like Versus. If you happened to be on a rollercoaster.” – Mark Wyatt

Ex-cons, superpowered undead demons, martial arts masters, police with firepower, pissed off undead yakuza, swords, guns, decapitation, chest holes, heart-eating, blood soaking, finger licking ultra-violent carnage. There can be no real description for this film other than perhaps the single greatest extended battle to be put to film. To try to make sense of the plot is a futile notion; you are presented with a situation and told to accept it. Not even an inkling of an explanation for it, and whilst no…

Cheerleader Camp

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Title: Cheerleader Camp (aka Bloody Pom Poms)
Rating: 2/5
Genre: Horror
Starring: Betsy Russell, Leif Garrett, Teri Weigel
Director: John Quinn
Duration: 88 mins

A group of young (but not young looking) cheerleaders drive up to a camp for some spirited competition with cheerleaders from other schools. Our main heroine and team captain, Alison, is being plagued by nightmares from the get-go. But this couldn't be the reason the captain of the opposing squad killed herself, or that other cheerleaders start disappearing. Could it?

I'm sure you all probably summed up this movie by yourselves by just looking at the title. Or if that wasn't the case, you were able to sum it up after reading the cast. What else but a B-grade slasher movie can one expect out of a film called Cheerleader Camp that stars teen-idol Leif Garrett, playmates Rebecca Ferratti and Krista Pflanza, and pornstar Teri Weigel? No, not a porno. A sex comedy at the very least, but blatantly a slasher flick. However, thi…

Elfen Lied

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Title: Elfen Lied
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Animation, Horror, Romantic, Drama, Action
Duration: 25mins (13 episodes)
Language: Japanese

If you ever needed further proof that anime wasn’t just for children, then this mini-series happily obliges. From that very first title sequence of religiously toned choral work behind artistic still frames, starkly contrasting with the first ten minutes of the show, consisting entirely of a naked woman ripping people’s torso’s in half with her mind, it leaves absolutely no illusion as to its intent and the rationale behind its hefty “15” rating in the UK. But this isn’t just violent for the sheer sake of it, more so than most anime, the lenient and forgiving format is exploited and abused in such a manner as to push certain boundaries on dark thematic subjects that would otherwise be rendered impossible with a live cast.

Across its five hour runtime the number of plot elements that weave together to form the story are too numerous to do justice in short space of…

The Skeptic

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Title: The Skeptic
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Horror
Starring: Tim Daly, Zoe Saldana, Tom Arnold
Director: Tennyson Bardwell
Duration: 89 mins

Hot-shot lawyer Bryan's aunt just passed away, which means only one thing to him: He gets her house. Bryan is notorious among family members and colleagues as being, you guessed it, skeptical about everything. He decides to temporarily separate from his wife and live in his new house until he sells it. Soon he finds out that the house was actually left to a local paranormal institute, instead of him. Bryan is none to happy to learn that his late and equally skeptical aunt believed that her house was haunted before she died. Bryan starts hearing eerie whispers at night and has visions of a mysterious woman. None of this can convince Bryan that the house is haunted until a psychic he met at an institute stays with him. Terror ensues and a dark secret begins to reveal itself.

I learned about something myself this week. Here's what I already knew: I'v…